Unforced Error – Smartsheet UX change

Usually, I try to avoid sports analogies 1, but this particular one is in my lexicon and has evolved beyond sports.

For me it translates to:

“Oh no. You really didn’t need to do that. But you did it anyway. Oops.”

On Dec 14, 2018, Smartsheet released the second of its large user experience (UX) changes for the year. I really disliked (and still do) the first one. The most recent one is getting quite the traffic on the Smartsheet Community.

What follows is a consolidated list of the threads started to date and some notable quotes. Maybe a few of my own thoughts will be sprinkled along the way. If this gets too tedious (believe me, I understand), skip to the end.


New layout – some observations

The first new post started out a bit positive but a few other users were quick to counter.

User A 2: “You have just made my job infinitely harder with this update.”

User B: “This has really ruined my Friday :-(“

User C: “Smartsheet is now basically useless for me.” and “This has created so much more work and clutter.”

User D: “Dislike the new layout … ” and “… a complete mess.”


Let Sleeping Dog Lie

was not as pleased as the first post.

“Now, I feel cheated and taken advantage of.” and “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.”

User E: “Not happy at all.”

User F: “Yeah, … I am fuming mad.”


Am I the only one who does not like the new December 2018 look?

“I HATE that I have lost my tabs, and I hate that the menu button ALWAYS takes me back to the RECENTLY VIEWED as opposed to the Home.” and “Please tell me I am over-reacting and that there are better ways to manage…”

Apparently not overreacting, as this user is not alone.

User G: “This update is awful (and buggy, I have found, scrolling resets all the time).”

User H: “It’s like jumping back 20 years and makes quick scrolling around a large sheet just awful.”

User I: “This is horrible. I hate this “update” and new layout. Pretty much just killed Smartsheet for us. “


Please bring back the tabs…

“The new December 2018 look prevents easy navigation and inhibits work-flow.  This is not a positive update.”

User  J: “I completely agree! We need the tabs back!”

User K: “Who thinks up this stuff?”

User L: “This will seriously impact the workflow for those of us that used to have multiple sheets open and still use the browser for other things.”

User M: “Who thought that was a good idea?”


The “New Smartsheet Navigation Experience” is Great! TY!

But just as you can’t please everyone, you can’t displease everyone either.

“I really believe this will enhance the new user experience tremendously!”

But others were again quick to voice their opinions.

User N: “I have the exact opposite reaction!” and “Nigh useless for me now.”

User O: “This new layout is a time and space waste.”

User Q: “I REALLY disagree. May end my love of smartsheet” [sic]


New Update – missing the option to open multiple sheets at the same time!

“Completely taken aback by the new update.”

This is also the first thread to receive any input from a Smartsheet employee. I find that interesting.

User R: “Certainly not more efficient”

User S: “I’ve had a couple of conversations today with users about the changes, and there’s a level of frustration with the new layout, that it’s more cumbersome than the previous one. “

User T: “Really, the more I try to work with it, the more awkward and cumbersome it is.”

User U (in response to Smartsheet Employee’s suggestion): “this is a workaround for sure” and “… I am afraid our users will not be happy with the new training they need to go through which makes me really unhappy.”

User V: “Worst update yet.”

I do not agree with that sentiment, but I don’t know how long the user has been a Smartsheet user.


This new layout is awful, can it be made optional?

That subject line says it all but the opening is cutting:

“Why would you do this? Did you even test this with customers?”

User W: “I cannot do my job effectively with this new update.”

and a second response from a (different) Smartsheet employee. In response to their statement “Our research was pretty divided and even while we were building the app our internal teams preferred different behavior”, User AA wrote this:

User AA: “You said it was a divided so your upsetting half of your members who pay yearly.  So make it optional. “


New Format

“Really sad what they have done.”

User AB: “Why change things that aren’t broken?!”

There’s another response from Smartsheet in this thread.


Thanks for wasting my time

“More clicks is just what we all wanted.”

There’s another response from Smartsheet in this thread. It mostly repeats from the previous thread.

User AB: “It feels like you made a change based on internal use cases and not customer use cases.”

User AC: “This new format defeats the purpose of convenience.  Give me an option to switch back or I probably will end my membership”


New format wastes both time and space

This one is by far the thread with the most comments as of this writing. Several comments by Smartsheet employee. With a statement like this:

“I am curious if you tested these changes with actual users in your research, because the new design wastes both time and screen space, which is quite an accomplishment.”

by a user, I would consider ignoring it to be a dereliction of duty. (Spoiler, the answer was “yes”)

Full Disclosure: I had started this post not sure if I would ever post it. I was hoping for catharsis and the therapy I get from just writing things down. At this point in the writing, I’m just tired. I imagine a Smartsheet employee reading the original posts and feeling something similar. I have the luxury of being able to put this aside and go about the rest of my day.

User AD: “…no matter how you try to spin this change all on this board agree that this change is hot garbage.”

User AE: “Last thing I needed at the end of the year is to try and figure this out.  I loved the old way and will also be shopping around for a new service to replace smart sheet.”

User AF: “In addition to the issues with the interface I strongly encourage you to adjust your change management for this. Consistently the responses from Smartsheet in this community try to convince loyal users that you know what is better for them and their businesses than they do. I would highly encourage you to find a remedy before users are forced to abandon the software.

These are the kinds of comments, however, that Smartsheet needs to be paying attention to.


New UI 12-14-2018

“At this time I am contemplating updating all training materials, SOP’s and videos or just throwing in the towel and searching for a replacement.”

I wonder if Smartsheet will be updating their own out of date training materials?


New Format is less efficient–More Clicks to manage our work!

“… extra clicks”

User AG: “Not happy with the new look AT ALL”


REALLY don’t like the new layout!

Again, the subject line conveys the sentiment that is echoed by four other users.

User AH: “Horrible idea, this new layout. Seems this was done in a vacuum without input from anyone using Smartsheet in real world.”

I don’t think that is true. But this sentiment can be found throughout all of the threads above.



Minus points for all capitals, but anyone that considers an angry customer to be a good objective might be missing the point.

But the last comment in this thread also seems to be a worrying trend:

User AJ: “This new interface IS a deal breaker. It’s crap.”


Closing Thoughts


I would have imagined that there was going to be some flurry of activity at Smartsheet HQ tomorrow (Monday – Dec 17th). See this announcement for the link to a Q&A to be held tomorrow.

Smartsheet Announcement 

As I mentioned above, to read all of these posts was tiring. The Smartsheet employees involved with this release (and there are many, I assume) should be required to read them too.

There are far too many threats or bluffs of ‘will be seeking a replacement’.

One trend that may be overlooked by some is that most of these threads were posted by relatively ‘new’ Community members. There are a few comments from members will longer histories of activity, but I still find this a data point worth exploring. Except for the lone ‘this is Great!’ post, the comments are overwhelmingly negative.

Smartsheet management needs to pay attention.

Time will tell if they do.

And lastly,

If I had more time, this would have been shorter, but I’m not sure it is worth any more of my time or yours.

  1. Primarily because a sports analogy is not universal. If the reader / listener is not a fan or familiar with Football (or Soccer to those in the USA), for example then the analogy may need to be explained, which kind of defeats the purpose of using it.
    I’ve heard people use this specific term for Baseball errors, but in general any logged error in baseball is by definition unforced.
  2. ‘User’ in this case is per thread as some community members posted in multiple threads in solidarity with the general sentiment.

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